Advocates for a smoke-free British Columbia
April 15, 2019

Langley mom delivers 17,000-name petition to ban smoking in condos

Naomi Baker launched a petition that has gained support from residents in similar situations, anti-smoking lobbying groups, an association representing landlords and health-care professionals.

Katie DeRosa, Victoria Times Colonist
Updated: April 5, 2019

Langley mom Naomi Baker and her 10-month-old daughter Faith delivered a 17,000-signature petition to the B.C. legislature on Thursday in her quest to ban smoking from multi-unit strata buildings. 

With 10-month-old daughter Faith in tow, Langley mom Naomi Baker on Thursday delivered a 17,000-signature petition to the B.C. legislature in her quest to ban smoking from multi-unit strata buildings.

Second-hand smoke from a neighbour has been seeping into Baker and husband Derek’s condo unit since 2016. She decided to take action when she learned she was pregnant with Faith in September 2017.

After her attempts to ban smoking in her strata were unsuccessful, Baker launched a petition that has gained support from residents in similar situations, anti-smoking lobbying groups, an association representing landlords and health-care professionals.

“Essentially, when we set out (on our campaign), we really realized that individuals should not have to be taking this fight on individually, unit by unit, building by building,” Baker said. “We know the risk of secondhand smoke is 100 per cent clear.” Victoria’s Mollie Kaye, a single mom of a 14-year-old, has been looking for solutions to secondhand smoke since she bought a condo in a 17-unit building in Fairfield last year.

Kaye said personal pleas to the smoking neighbour and the property manager were unsuccessful, even when she produced a doctor’s note saying her 14-year-old daughter was suffering from health problems due to secondhand smoke.

In November, her strata passed a no-smoking bylaw, which had a caveat that allowed existing owners to smoke, unless the smoke is wafting into other apartments. The neighbour has received a warning, but Kaye said there are still occasions when she smells smoke.

Both Kaye and Baker say it’s unfair that smoking is banned in workplaces, airplanes, ferries and public parks, yet people in their own home can be subjected to smoke from a neighbour. Both say it needs to be legislated at a provincial level rather than pitting neighbour against neighbour.

“When you leave the resolution of secondhand-smoke issues to neighbours and property managers and landlords, it seems like a losing equation,” Kaye said. “To just say every individual strata can decide for themselves is a nightmare. To me, having a provincial law that says ‘No, you can’t smoke inside a building’ would be much better.”

Baker appeared alongside Liberal MLA for Langley Mary Polak, who is calling for cross-party support to ban smoking in strata buildings.
Polak suggested the Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation could be amended to require strata buildings to be non-smoking, with a two-thirds vote required to make the building smoking-friendly.

“Why is it in a strata development that the default position is smoking, and you have to get the two-third majority to get it non-smoking?” Polak asked. “In this day and age, you’d think the default would be the opposite.”

Baker said after much lobbying, her strata finally passed a no-smoking bylaw by a slim two-thirds majority. She said renters are often powerless to change strata bylaws unless the landlord takes up the fight on their behalf.

Baker and Polak met with Housing Minister Selina Robinson and Health Minister Adrian Dix late Thursday afternoon. Robinson said before the meeting that the issue is important and she’ll consider all implications for residents of multi-unit buildings before making any changes.

Polak said the fact that there is support from MLAs in all three parties makes her hopeful that changes will be made.

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